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Department of Health to develop National Liver Strategy

  • Last modified date:
    20 October 2009
Alcoholic drinks

The Department of Health today is taking forward its commitment to tackling liver disease by recruiting a new National Clinical Director to lead the development of a National Strategy for Liver Disease.

Liver disease is the fifth most common cause of death in England and if action is not taken to combat the disease, it could overtake stroke and coronary heart disease as a cause of death within the next 10-20 years.  The growth in liver disease is largely fuelled by lifestyle factors such as excessive drinking and obesity and could easily be prevented.

The Department will recruit a National Clinical Director in the next few months to develop a strategy to effectively combat Liver Disease and oversee its implementation.

Health Minister Ann Keen said:

'Liver disease is the only one of the top five causes of death which is continuing to affect more people every year at an increasingly young age.  We know that by identifying people earlier, encouraging people to change their behaviour and making sure the right services are in the right place, we can improve the quality of care and stop the rise in this disease.

'By appointing a National Clinical Director to oversee the development of a strategy we will ensure that clinical evidence and outcomes for patients are at the heart of our work to improve the quality of services to tackle liver disease.  We will continue to work closely with the NHS and patient groups to make a real difference for patients and for the healthcare staff working in this area.”

Professor Rajiv Jalan, Secretary of the British Association for the Study of the Liver (BASL), said:

'We welcome this announcement of a National Liver Strategy and hope that its implementation will help to stem the rising burden of liver disease in the UK.

'We are concerned about the growing impact of liver disease and BASL, together with the British Society for Gastroenterology Liver Section have recently worked together to produce our own set of recommendations in our report 'A Time To Act: Improving liver health and outcomes in Liver Disease'. We believe these recommendations will provide a solid foundation for the National Liver Strategy and look forward to working with the National Clinical Director and Department of Health to ensure that the strategy delivers the changes that we need.'

The Department of Health recognises the importance of managing lifestyle factors in preventing a number of diseases. That is why we have already launched two major campaigns, Know Your Limits and Change4Life, investing £372m to address obesity and to prevent people becoming obese in the first place.

Liver disease facts:

  • The average age of death from liver disease is 59, compared to 82 for heart disease and 84 for stroke
  • Liver disease is largely preventable and can be treated if diagnosed sufficiently early
  • Obesity is a rising cause of liver disease, with Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) a growing concern amongst liver specialists
  • While lifestyle factors such as drinking and obesity are the biggest causes, liver disease can also be caused by viral hepatitis, excessive iron and rare disorders
  • Liver disease currently costs the NHS £460m a year

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